Don’t take for granted the superlative scenery we enjoy in the Hudson Valley. While it may seem inherent to the region, in fact, the maintenance of its natural beauty is largely thanks to conservation initiatives that protect land from development. Since its founding in 1974, the Open Space Institute has safeguarded over 2.3 million acres of land (and counting) in North America. One of its most recent acquisitions is a 64-acre area in the Ulster County town of Wawarsing—on the Shawangunk Ridge, just southeast of Ellenville—which is regarded as one of the top sites for hang gliding on the east coast.
The Open Space Institute purchased the land for $500,000 from a “conservation-minded landowner,” building on four previous purchases of land in the locale. Altogether, the organization has acquired over 230 acres in an effort to preserve the Shawangunk Ridge viewshed. As for the ridge itself, the Open Space Institute has protected over 36,000 acres—which amounts to over 65 percent of the Shawangunk Ridge property—in the past four decades.
“With each significant property protected along the Ridge, OSI is advancing our commitment to save the land that we love and depend on most for the health and enjoyment of our families and our communities,” says Kim Elliman, the organization’s president and CEO.
A local hang-gliding organization retains a 16-acre swath of land, albeit with “stringent conservation restrictions,” meaning the location will remain a mecca for thrill-seekers. What’s more, the Open Space Institute plans to allow other outdoor activities like hiking and snowshoeing on the premises. “People visit our town from around the globe to hike, bike, and especially to hang glide at this world-famous location,” says Wawarsing Town Supervisor Terry Houck. “The scenic beauty of the Shawangunk Ridge and the surrounding areas, and the many outdoor activities these natural formations support, are a truly special quality of the area.” To be sure, the property’s natural features are ideal for hang gliding; its steep slopes rise over 1,300 feet above sea level with a “launch site perfectly angled for takeoff.”
So, with that said, who’s ready to take flight?